CARTHAGE, Texas — The Carthage Bulldogs are no stranger to the state championship game. In fact, in his 16th season as head coach, Scott Surratt still has more championships than he does playoff losses.
That's an unbelievable 70-7 record in his playoff career.
He's been here many times before, and that experience has also helped his players continue to dominate all season long. The Bulldogs are 15-0 this year, and they advanced to state after an extremely close 42-35 win over Glen Rose last Friday.
Now, this Carthage team will have the opportunity to play for the biggest trophy under the bright lights of AT&T Stadium.
"I'm so excited, their stadium is awesome," said wide receiver Noah Paddie. "The atmosphere, just everything, all of it really. I can't wait."
Paddie played a big part in Carthage's big 28-7 win in the regional semifinal against the No. 2 Gilmer Buckeyes. The receiver finished with three total touchdowns in what was the most anticipated matchup of their season so far. But he's not the only one with a ton of excitement for the game this Friday.
"Now I get to play in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium in front of everybody, a whole lot of people," said junior Larandion Dowden. "I get to show people what I can do, what Carthage can do. You know, we all play for the C."
Dowden turned out to be the hero of their state semifinal win. The Bulldogs found themselves in a closer game than they're used to, tied up in the fourth quarter. With the game on the line, Dowden scored the game-winning touchdown with only eight seconds remaining.
It was a game where multiple players stepped up when needed and showed up big. Jakerrian Roquemore, primarily a defensive star, lined up at receiver all game to cover for the injured Montrel Hatton. Roquemore finished with 173 receiving yards, including two massive touchdown receptions.
Surratt said performances from players like this are what make his team so talented and so special.
"We obviously set a winning culture and our players believe in it," Surratt said. "They believe in the process and winning the daily battle. And I think that's how we get it done."
As the final team standing in East Texas, they're looking to bring home yet another state title to the region. More importantly, they're looking to celebrate a big win with their passionate Carthage fanbase and community.
"Carthage fans always come out, always travel. We were in Dallas last week, and there were a ton of them," Paddie said. "We hear them behind us, and it fires us up. It always helps with the game. It makes a huge difference."
Carthage will take on 15-0 Wimberley in the state championship game this Friday at 11 a.m. at AT&T Stadium.